GEOGRAPHERS might dispute this fact, but the world’s oceans were created using water from the River Dee in Chester.
That is according to the Benedictine monks of the Abbey of St Werburgh (now Chester Cathedral), who first penned the Chester Mystery Plays in the 14th century.
And Jesus is visited in the stable by Welsh shepherds, who picked up provisions in Blacon, before meeting three foreign kings on a trip from France.
Add modern references, by writer Stephanie Dale, including a day at Chester Races and a football crowd on their way to a Chester FC match, and the Bible stories have a definite flavour of the North West.
“All human life is there,” says director Peter Leslie Wild, who signed up for the project more than two years ago.
“The Bible is where a lot of storytelling began. You find love, revenge, power, pride, persecution and, above all, humour and joy.
“But above all, the Chester Mystery Plays are as much about life in Chester as they are about life in Biblical times.”
The original plays were presented by the city’s freemen and guilds who trundled pageant wagons around the city streets to tell their tales.
Due principally to the vagaries of the British weather, the 2013 production is being presented inside the cathedral, metres from the ancient scriptorium in which they were written.
Wild said: “I feel incredibly privileged to be putting the plays on in the very place they were created 700 years ago.”
The award-winning theatre director and radio producer, who has spent more than his fair share of time in Radio 4’s fictional Ambridge, home of The Archers, added: “I am also very humbled by the fact that 300 local people have put their faith in me to deliver a production which does justice to those very scripts. There is an amazing connection with the cathedral and it is inspiring to see how the combination of Judith Croft’s set, Chris Ellis’s lighting design and what the company themselves bring to the production fit so naturally into this beautiful space.
“Someone was given my job all those years ago – to retain the spirit of the plays but bring them to life in a contemporary way and to reflect what is happening in Chester when the plays are performed.”
Peter explains how workshops at the end of last year inspired much of the action, including the Antichrist play being set at the ancient Roodee.
“Races day in Chester came up at every workshop – sometimes with positive reactions, sometimes negative.
“People recognised the economic benefit, some talked about how much they enjoyed dressing up for a day at the races and other locals talked about the disruption caused.”
Another aspect of Chester life that Wild picked up on was homelessness.
He said: “It is no secret that provision for homelessness in Chester has suffered blows recently and we did workshops very early on in the process with CATH (Chester Aid to the Homeless).
“We then decided to include two characters in the script that represent the homeless in Chester and ultimately they have a connection with Jesus.”
He won’t be drawn on what that connection is but Twitter and Facebook are full of tantalising previews of a ‘Jesus-cam’, short clips of films and blogs from young actors.
If you think you know your Bible, think again.
THE Chester Mystery Plays are at Chester Cathedral until July 13. For tickets contact 01244 500959 or visit www.chestermysteryplays.com.
DEVIL of a job for panto dame – see Francis Tucker interview on page 41.